Command and Control going into the West Woods, September 17, 1862

About a year ago I posted about the nature of generalship and how that trait is, properly, assessed.  For the military professional, generalship means exercising command and control of a military unit.  Under my personal definition, I throw in a third skill to exercise – management.  But for today let’s just focus on the two “C’s” that most professional sources mention – command and control.   These two are often confused, conflated, and mashed into one when discussing generalship in historical terms. No more so than with the study of the Civil War.

So let’s lean back on the definitions.  First, command:

Command is the authority that a commander in the armed forces lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of rank or assignment.

There is, of course, more to it than this one sentence.  Please consult the earlier post for the full context.  In particular consider the three key elements of command – authority, decision making, and leadership.  In brief, command is the commander’s “charge”… that body of military force that he is responsible for… to include the responsibility of appropriate use.  We might say that command is an assignment.

Control, on the other hand:

… control is the regulation of forces and battlefield operating systems to accomplish the mission in accordance with the commander’s intent.

The important elements of control are information, communication, and structure.  Again, the nuances and details of each of these elements is important, so please consult that earlier post as to how each is defined.  Control is more so exercised. The measure of control may be quantified as the amount of the battle a commander can influence.

But these two have a dependent relationship – commanders can only command what they can control.  And commanders can only control what they can command.  Somewhere there is a Venn diagram waiting to be drawn…..

Turning to the battlefield, there is a ready example of the nature of command and control… with an anniversary just around the corner.   Consider Major-General John Sedgwick’s divisional attack into the West Woods at Antietam, on the morning of September 17, 1862.  Sedgwick was in Second Corps, under Major-General Edwin V. Sumner.  Sedgwick commanded three brigades that morning:

  • 1st Brigade, Brigadier-General Willis Gorman with 15th Massachusetts, 1st Minnesota, 34th New York, and 82nd New York (and a couple companies of sharpshooters).
  • 2nd Brigade, Brigadier-General Oliver O. Howard with 69th, 71st, 72nd, and 106th Pennsylvania.
  • 3rd Brigade, Brigadier-General Napoleon J.T. Dana, with 19th and 20th Massachusetts, 42nd and 59th New York, and 7th Michigan.

And… of course Battery A, 1st Rhode Island and Battery I, 1st US Artillery… but they would not be part of the infantry formation going into the West Woods.

Sumner and Sedgwick chose a common attack formation with the division in a column of brigades in line of battle.  Something like this “wire frame”:

 

Formation1

Generally, that is, with the line of march to the left of view.  (If any of you Antietam experts find where I’ve put a regiment out of order, let me know.)  Gorman’s brigade up front.  Dana’s brigade, with five regiments, followed.  Then Howard’s with four larger regiments (in terms of men) trailed. Let’s add to graphics to depict the layers of command and the control exercised at each layer.

First, Sumner at the corps level:

Sumner

The red arrow depicts Sumner’s command, through Sedgwick, of the entire formation.  Yes, Sumner had the authority to go all the way down to an individual private in his command. But he would normally work through his subordinates, in this case Sedgwick.  Plus, you’d have a really messy diagram with red arrows down to each individual regiment.  Keep in mind, Sumner had two other divisions under his command.  So imagine a couple more arrows pointing off the diagram.  Brigadier-General William French and Major-General Israel Richardson were, in many ways, out of the picture.

Sumner’s control was likewise exercised through Sedgwick, depicted here with a green oval. Sumner’s ability to control the situation was limited to what decisions and information he could communicate directly to subordinates, chiefly Sedgwick.  His “reach” extended only to how far Sumner could be heard, or extended by way of messengers.  Sumner, himself, moved forward when the fighting started, in some cases giving direct orders to brigades and regiments.  So his influenced extended very far forward.

But, that brings up French and Richardson again.  Some would argue that Sumner was unable to control those divisions to the extent the situation demanded, because “Bull Head” was not in a place to make his voice heard to them.

Sedgwick’s situation was a bit cleaner:

Sedgwick

All of Sedgwick’s subordinates were in front of him.  And we can assume Sedgwick did move about the formation to exercise control.  Indeed, he was severely wounded while doing just that!  But we still have the constraint that his “reach” is the sound of his voice, extended by way of messengers.  However, at the division level, that constraint was manageable.  Orders to a brigade commander might take five or ten minutes to pass.  The time taken for the brigade to execute those orders might take twice as much time off the clock.

For the brigade commanders, consider Howard:

Howard

 

Then Gorman:

 

Gorman

The red arrows are almost always within the green oval.  While not every single private in the brigade could hear the general, control was manageable by voice and messenger.  …. Well at least in the formation as it stepped out.  This will change.  Consider the actual “on the field” arrangements and how much space this division took up on the battlefield.  A visual, from the field, if I may:

Antietam 154 003

This is a panoramic photo taken at the 154th anniversary of the battle.  The rangers arranged the visitors to represent different regiments. Then aligned everyone in the brigade formations.  You’ll see some flags for the center of selected regiments.  I was standing in front of Dana’s brigade to take this photo.  The main point to stress was just how much distance those orders had to travel.  And yes, the brigade commanders would be mounted and move around the formation to best exercise control. Still, the time required to relate an order, be that in person or by messenger, was minutes.  And that must be balanced against the time needed to move a regiment, or battalion, or company.  At the brigade level, some changes – say a refuse to meet an enemy thrust, or a well timed charge – required quick responses.

Keep in mind, control is not just exercised simply by riding around barking orders.  Control also involves gathering and assimilating information.  And at that day and age, most of the intelligence presented to the commander came from his own eyes…. And, yes, you will need to use the zoom features on that pano photo to see the flags… get that inference?

And once the firing started, those formations would not remain so well dressed and orderly.  Turning to the Antietam map sets, consider the command and control problem facing Gorman with his brigade engaged:

GormanMap

A color switch to adapt to the map here – the commander’s name in “neon blue” so it stands out.  Green is the range of control, give or take, for our consideration.  And the light blue lines depict the command arrangements.  Gorman had three regiments close at hand, but the 34th New York was off on it’s own.  Days later, Colonel James Suiter, commanding the 34th, could only report, “For some cause to me unknown, I had become detached from my brigade….”  Thus we have to consider the area of influence exercised by Gorman as well as Suiter.  And in this case, we also have to consider what Gorman and Suiter could see, assimilate as information, and thus use when making decisions.

Dana’s brigade appears more intact on the map:

DanaMap

But this is deceptive.  As his brigade moved up, Dana noticed Confederate movements and called an “audible” in response.

There was no time to wait for orders; the flanking force, whatever it was, was advancing its fire too rapidly on my left.  I permitted the three right regiments to move on, but broke off the Forty-second New York Volunteers, with orders to change front to the left and meet the attack….

I’d highlight two points from this passage. First, the situation called for immediate decisions, orders, and movements.  Dana could not wait for Sumner’s command and control to reach down through Sedgwick.  It was hard enough just to get his own command and control through to the 42nd New York!

Second, writing that passage two weeks after the battle in his after-action report, Dana still had no idea what hit him from the woods.  Only decades later, did the likes of Ezra Carmen piece the situation together.  (And one might argue even more study is still needed!)  Part of control, by way of handling information, is forming a common operating picture.  Where that common operating picture is ill defined, the commander has trouble making sound decisions.  Such makes those green ovals a little smaller, or perhaps a shade dimmer.

Howard, however, had it really bad:

HowardMap

By the map, there is no brigade formation.  Of course, the reports speak of “good order” and such.  As with Dana’s description, the full story would begin to unfold decades later as the veterans re-told their stories.  Add to that another twist – shuffling command under fire.  When Sedgwick was taken from the field, Howard assumed command of the division.  In Howard’s place, Colonel Joshua T. Owen, 69th Pennsylvania, assumed command of the brigade.

Sumner was in this fight and taking personal command.  But how much could Sumner control?   Howard added an interesting remark in his after action report:

Nearly the whole of the first line in good order stood and fired some 30 or 40 rounds per man, when word came that the left of our division had been completely turned by the enemy, and  the order was given by General Sumner in person to change the position of the third line.  He afterward indicated to me the point where the stand was to be made, where he wished to repel a force of the enemy already in our rear.  The noise of musketry and artillery was so great that I judged more by the gestures of the general as to the disposition he wished me to make than by the orders that reached my ears.

Emphasis mine.

In this short paragraph we have a glimpse of how command and control played out in combat during the Civil War.  “Word came down” about a threat.  Orders were given “in person.”  And those exact orders were not audible even to someone in close proximity! Gestures.  That’s how command and control was accomplished that day!

When examining the fighting in the West Woods – especially after the problems of command and control are laid out – the natural question arises:  Did the division take a bad formation into battle?

Perhaps.  And this question takes us into the “management” component that I alluded to in the opening.  As we have seen from the “wire frames,” maps, and some after action reports, when the division was under fire there were limitations on control.  An “armchair general” case might be made for having the brigades formed with regiments, in battle formation, stacked in column, with a three brigade front.  That would have allowed each commander to “fight” a narrow brigade sector.

But…. that also means the commanders would be working in a “stove pipe” without much influence on what happened outside of a regimental front.  And how much combat power would then be stacked up waiting for the order to commit?

A similar situation faced the Marines who assaulted Tarawa on November 20, 1943.  There, the 2nd Marine Division attacked, with an initial force of three regiments, landing abreast.

tarawa1

Inside those regiments were battalion landings, essentially in successive lines. If I “wire framed” the formation, it would look a lot like the opposite of Sedgwick’s.  Command and control faced serious problems that day too.  Though I would point out Major Generals Holland M. Smith and Julian C. Smith selected the formation for good reasons, based on an incomplete assessment of Japanese defenses and other factors.  The same qualifier can be used with respect to Sumner and Sedgwick selecting a formation on September 17, 1862.

Bottom line, there is no “one way” to assault into woods or across a hostile beach held by an unknown force.  The textbooks and manuals are not written that way.  Instead, the military professional has to study the situations and events of the past, looking for lessons that might apply to future scenarios.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 19, Part I, Serial 27, pages 306, 316, and 320.)

Advertisements

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 3rd New York Cavalry, Allis’s… NOT Allee’s… Howitzers!

Sometimes, even Frederick H. Dyer stands need of correction.  Or at least a small adjustment.

Just below the 3rd New York Artillery’s battery summaries for the second quarter, 1863, there is a lonely line:

0201_1_Snip_NYAllis

  • Section, Attached to 3rd Cavalry: At New Berne, North Carolina with two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

If we consult Dyer’s Compendium we find a listing:

Allee’s Howitzer Battery

Attached to 3rd New York Cavalry (which see)

Consulting the entry for the 3rd New York Cavalry, we see no mention of the howitzer battery.  And that is normal where a section (or battery) served as an integral component of the parent unit.

In the past, I’ve normally just accepted Dyer’s designation.  You’ll see that in entries for the summaries of fourth quarter, 1862 and first quarter, 1863.  But since this entry stands alone for the second quarter, I thought it convenient to pause and provide a more detailed study of this particular unit.

So who was this Allee that commanded this howitzer battery?

Well… the roster of the 3rd New York Cavalry has no record of an officer named Allee.  In fact, there was no soldier in the regiment by that name.  And there are no references, primary or secondary, that would reconcile the name “Allee” to the regiment.  Rather hard for a person to command a battery if there were not IN the unit!

So who should we be looking for?  Consulting New York State Military Museum’s website (an excellent on-line resource that should be in your bookmarks), specifically a collection of newspaper clippings that reference the 3rd New York Cavalry, we find this entry, discussing Brigadier-General Edward Potter’s July 1863 raid on Greenville, Tarboro, and Rocky Mount (emphasis mine):

We had a most delightful passage from New York and arrived at Newbern on Tuesday evening, 21st inst. I found the city of Newbern quiet and pleasant as ever, although … had gone out early Saturday morning, under the command of that most efficient and gallant officer, Brigadier General Potter, Chief of Staff to General Foster. The troops for the expedition comprised two battalions of the 3d N. Y. cavalry, commanded by Majors Cole and Jacobs; one company of the 1st N. C. cavalry, Lieut. Graham, and one battalion of the 12th N. Y. cavalry, Major Clarkston; two sections of 12 pound howitzers, Lieut. Allis, and one section of flying artillery from the 3d N. Y. regiment, commanded by Lieut. Clark. The cavalry was all under the command of Lieut. Col. Lewis, of the 3d N. Y. cavalry.

And there WAS a Lieutenant James A. Allis with the 3rd New York Cavalry.  And he was detached to artillery service, according to his state muster records:

James_Allis_Muster_2

Note the the remarks.  “… On detached service comd’g artillery detachment since Jan 1/63…” THIS is the commander, and the name, that we need to close the loop.  Very possible that Dyer transcribed the name incorrectly.  However, my wife pointed out that “Allis” is likely a name of Norman-French origin.  If that is the case, it would be pronounced somewhat like “Alee” or such.  So Dyer might have worked from a source that spelled Allis as it sounded.  At any rate, I am pretty sure we can match “Allee’s Battery” to “Allis’s Section” in this case.  Those are the howitzers were are talking about!

James A. Allis was born in Cazenovia, New York (Madison County), on September 17, 1840 to Elijah and Diantha Allis.  His family moved to Syracuse, as he appears there in the 1855 state census, aged 14.  The 1860 census has a 19 year-old James A. Allis, from New York, as a teacher in Joliet, Illinois.  Not for sure this is the same person, but certainly matches with some particulars.

Turning to his muster records:

James_Allis_Muster_1

Allis enlisted in what would be come the 3rd New York Volunteer Cavalry on August 3, 1861 in Syracuse as a sergeant in Company I. The remarks indicate he was born in Syracuse (vice Cazenovia), was 5 foot, 7 ½ inches tall, black eyes (!), and brown hair.

He was promoted to First Sergeant on October 8.  And then this “fast mover” was promoted to First Lieutenant on December 31st to close out the year.   (And a side note, the 3rd New York Cavalry was involved through that time in operations on the upper Potomac, to include Balls Bluff and Edwards Ferry in October … thus he was in my neck of the woods for a while.)

In April 1862, the 3rd New York transferred to the Department of North Carolina.  On May 30,  Allis led a detail of 15 men out of Washington, North Carolina on a reconnaissance mission.  At Trantor’s Creek, about eight miles out of the perimeter, the detail encountered a Confederate patrol.  Allis left a detail to secure the bridge at the creek and took up pursuit.  “Finding himself surrounded by a large body of infantry concealed in the woods,” Captain George Jocknick, commanding Company I reported, “Lieutenant Allis gallantly cut his way through the crowd, and returned here with his command about noon, with only one man–Private Ogden Harrison–badly wounded and 2 horses killed.”   In short, Allis got himself into trouble, but smartly… and aggressively…  extracted himself.   On the heels of that action, Allis received promotion to First Lieutenant. Clearly an officer held in high regard.

I’m not sure when the 3rd New York Cavalry came into possession of the mountain howitzers.  In December, that section was associated with Allis as part of the expedition to Goldsborough.  Captain Newton Hall, commanding the troops from the 3rd New York on that operation, wrote “I must not neglect to mention Lieutenant Allis and his howitzer, which was always ready when wanted, and did us good service at White Hall.”  In March the section supported another expedition out of New Bern.   On May 20-23, the section was involved with a demonstration towards Kinston.   June 17-18, Allis’s section was taken along for a scout to Core Creek.  The section was again called upon in the first week of July to support a raid on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.  Later in the month, the battery was part of the expedition toward Rocky Mount mentioned above.

In December 1863, the 3rd New York Cavalry transferred to Newport News, where they became involved with operations against Richmond and Petersburg.  And around that time, Allis appears to have left the howitzers (either the section was turned in, or at least Allis was given other duties).  Allis continued as a lieutenant for Company F and later Company G.  With his initial enlistment complete in the summer of 1864, Allis reenlisted as a captain, in Company C, in July 1864.  However, by that time Allis was working as an aide and staff officer.  In correspondence with Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant, Major General E.O.C. Ord describes Allis as “the best [cavalry] officer I have…” … though it is hard to ascertain the full context, as Ord was speaking from a position of want in regard to proper cavalry!  Still a high accolade, when mentioned between such very high ranking officers.

After the war, Allis returned to Syracuse.  In the 1875 state census, Allis lived with his brother, practicing law.  Around that time, James Allis married Ellen Moore.  The couple had one boy child die in infancy.  But then were blessed with three girls – Olive, Mable, and Ida.  The 1910 census indicated James, still in Syracuse, worked as an equipment clerk.  His three daughters, by then aged 34 to 25, were living with their parents.  All three employed as teachers.  James A. Allis died in Syracuse on October 30, 1920, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse.

Circling back to the summary statement, the section did not report any ammunition on hand for the quarter.  Though there were ample implements and other supplies.  Perhaps the cavalrymen were just not accustomed to the artillery reporting forms.

The important take-away from examining that lonely line on the summaries is not the need to correct the spelling of Allis’s name in Dyer’s Compendium.  Rather, that the line allows us to be introduced to James A. Allis and the duties he performed during the war.  He was, as they say, mentioned in dispatches.

 

 

 

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 3rd New York Artillery Regiment

When we examined the 1st New York Light Artillery last week ago, it’s service at the mid-point of the Civil War was mainly within Virginia.  Or shall we say the Eastern Theater proper?  In contrast, the 3rd New York Artillery (which was a mix of heavy and light) spent the first half of the war serving in the Carolinas.  For the fourth quarter of 1862, we briefly looked at the origins of the 3rd regiment.  And for the first quarter of 1863, we noted the split of the regiment, with some batteries going to reinforce efforts against Charleston.  In addition to that move, over 500 two year enlistments came up in May.  This brought the overall regimental strength down to 889 men.  Men were transferred within the regiment to meet obligations to maintain field batteries at full manning.  Between May and June, the remaining men of Batteries A, C, D, and G were transferred to batteries B, E, F, H, I, and M.  Colonel Charles H. Stewart remained in command of the regiment, though as time progressed it was more so an administrative assignment.  And with Stewart’s administrative responsibilities, he received permission to recruit replacements (with the objective of a full 1,700 men).

That history in mind, we turn to the first page of the summary:

0201_1_Snip_NY3rd

As mentioned above, many of these batteries were not fully staffed.  And what did remain were either employed as garrison troops or other support roles.  Referencing Henry and James Hall’s Cayuga in the Field, we can fill in some of the blanks from the summary:

  • Battery A: No return.  Captain Charles White was in command of the battery when mustered out in Syracuse, on June 2.  The three-year men transferred to Batteries E, I, and K.
  • Battery B: Reported at Folly Island, South Carolina, with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain James E. Ashcroft commanded. Returns from the end of June had the battery assigned to Seabrook Island, but of course part of the force concentrating for the Morris Island Campaign.
  • Battery C: No return.  Ashcroft transferred to Battery B (above) on May 22, leaving Lieutenant Charles B. Randolph in charge of the two-year men.  They were mustered out on June 2.  The three year men from this battery moved to Batteries I and K.
  • Battery D: No return.  Captain Owen Gavigan was among the two year men mustered out in June.  Those with enlistments remaining went to Batteries E, I, and K.
  • Battery E:  At New Berne, North Carolina with four 20-pdr Parrott rifles.  Captain Theodore H. Schenck remained in command.  This battery was originally earmarked for South Carolina, but returned to North Carolina by April, part of Eighteenth Corps.
  • Battery F:  On Morris Island with six 12-pdr (3.67-inch) Wiard rifles.  The location was valid for September, 1863, when the return was received in Washington.  Lieutenant Paul Birchmeyer commanded this battery, then on Folly Island. Captain David A. Taylor was on detached service, with the Signal Corps.
  • Battery G: No return. Another battery mustered out in early June.  Captain John Wall rolled up that guidon.  Remaining men transferred to Battery K.
  • Battery H: At New Berne, North Carolina with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain William J. Riggs in command.  Assigned to Eighteenth Corps.
  • Battery I:  Also at New Berne and with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Captain John H. Ammon held command.
  • Battery K: No return.  Also assigned to New Berne at this time of the war. Captain James R. Angel was in command.  For the previous quarter, and the one that followed, this battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles on hand.  Likely that was the case for the second quarter.  This battery received many three-year men from the disbanding batteries.
  • Battery L:  As explained in earlier posts, this battery did not exist as part of 3rd New York Artillery at this stage of the war.  Near war’s end The 24th Independent Battery was assigned this title, somewhat retroactively.
  • Battery M: At New Berne with six 10-pdr Parrott Rifles.  Captain John H. Howell commanded.

The batteries mustered out at the start of June (A, C, D, and G) were replaced by new batteries with the same designations starting in the fall of 1863 running through the winter of 1864.  So we will see them again in the summaries.

One other note.  We have seen the Napoleons of Battery B

Napoleon_Battery1A

and the Wiards of Battery F

Wiard_Battery

in the photos from Morris Island.

Turning to the ammunition, we have to use the extended columns to handle the smoothbore rounds.  And we have a “problem”:

0203_1_Snip_NY3rd

Three Napoleon batteries and some “leftover” in Battery E:

  • Battery B: 678 shot, 382 shell, 872 case, and 406 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery E: 84 shells for 12-pdr Napoleons; 20 shell, 78 case, and 6 canister for 24-pdr field howitzers; 2 shell and 6 canister for 32-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery G (?): 396 shot, 87 shell, 439 case, and 160 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H (?): 294 shot, 150 shell, 303 case, and 136 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

First off, Battery E had heavy field howitzers on hand in the previous quarter.  And apparently the battery retained some ammunition for those big howitzers (awaiting turn in, perhaps).  But that does not explain the Napoleon shells on hand.

Battery G, as indicated above, mustered out in the first week of June.  And no return was indicated on the first page of the summary.  I offer this was a transcription error.  If so, did the clerk just move everything up one line?  In other words, what’s on line 60 being Battery H’s ammuntion; and line 61 that for Battery I?  No evidence, just expectations!

Moving to the rifled projectiles, we start with the Hotchkiss patent types:

0203_2_Snip_NY3rd

One, well stocked, battery:

  • Battery F: 100 shot, 1065 percussion shell, 300 fuse shell, and 650 bullet shell for 12-pdr / 3.67-inch Wiard Rifles.

And we know those projectiles were destined to be fired at Battery Wagner and, occasionally, Fort Sumter in the months to come.

Let’s split up the next page for clarity:

0204_1A_Snip_NY3rd

  • Battery F: 240 Hotchkiss canister for 12-pdr / 3.67-inch Wiard Rifles.

Moving to Parrott and Schenkl projectiles:

0204_1B_Snip_NY3rd

Two batteries reporting:

  • Battery E: 126 Parrott shell, 30 Parrott canister, and 402 Schenkl shot for 20-pdr Parrott, 3.67-inch caliber.
  • Battery M: 1203 Parrott shell, 57 Parrott case, and 134 Parrott canister for 10-pdr Parrotts.

There were no tallies for any additional Schenkl projectiles or the Tatham’s canister.

So on to the small arms:

0204_3_Snip_NY3rd

By battery:

  • Battery A:  One Army revolver, thirteen Navy revolvers, and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery E: Twenty-nine Navy revolvers, two cavalry sabers, and forty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Eleven Army revolvers and seven horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery G (?): Four Army revolvers, seventeen Navy revolvers, and fifty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H (?): Ten Army revolvers, seven Navy revolvers, and forty-nine horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery M:  Thirty Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.

As with the smoothbore ammunition columns, I offer that lines 60 and 61 were moved up by one.  So those should be Battery H and Battery I.  In the previous quarter, Battery H reported thirty-one Navy revolvers and fifty horse artillery sabers.  Battery I reported Ten Army revolvers, nine Navy revolvers, and forty horse artillery sabers.  Not a close match, but at least a little weight to consider.

We’ll continue with the New York batteries with consideration of yet another “straggler” line – some mountain howitzers in the 3rd New York Cavalry!

 

A trip to Europe, looking at foundries: The 1840 Ordnance Commission

Last week’s post about foreign 6-pdr field guns was a “resource” post, if not an outright setup posting.  Sort of a background discussion leading me up to some points about European cannons and influences upon American designs.  What I am leading up to is this cannon:

Vacation23 102

This cannon marks the battery position for 8th Indiana Battery at Chickamauga (Viniard Field).  At first glance this looks like any old bronze 6-pdr.

Vacation23 091

Liège…as in Belgium.

And there’s this bit of service history proudly displayed on the muzzle:

Vacation23 095

This weapon’s history takes us back to the end of the 1830s when Joel Roberts Poinsett was Secretary of War.  Aside from introducing the poinsetta to the United States, Poinsett had a very active life as a public servant – Congressman (1821-25), Minister to Mexico (1825-29), and Secretary of War (1837-41).  And, standing apart from many of his fellow South Carolinians, was a strong unionist during the Nullification Crisis.  So Poinsett is an interesting fellow to say the least.

As Secretary of War, Poinsett was a reformer.  In brief, Poinsett proposed many changes to the system of regular and militia forces, aiming for more formality and standardization.  At the low end of reforms, Poinsett pressed for new manuals and better weapons.  But at the high end, Poinsett wanted concentrated Army garrisons, summer training maneuvers that incorporated the militias, and expanded weapon manufacturing facilities.  Some of these reforms got through Congress.  But those on the high end didn’t.

Looking specifically at artillery, the Poinsett years are marked by a series of model numbers for field artillery, easily traced with the history of the 6-pdr guns – Models 1838 and 1840 along with the Model 1841.  And in-between were many experimental types.  Much debate among ordnance officers, and with Poinsett himself, in those days as the Army struggled to find a suitable field piece (arguably, much of that because the Army wanted the “perfect” field piece).

This came to a head in March 5, 1840, when Poinsett wrote the Ordnance Board that he was “…not satisfied that the corps, collectively or individually, posses that practical knowledge which the importance of the subject, both to the country and the reputation of the corps, would seem to require.” Very damning assessment from the boss.  But Poinsett didn’t just call out a problem, he also brought a remedy.  On March 16, Poinsett sent a letter instructing the Ordnance Department to detail a commission of three officers, and one civilian, on a trip to Europe with the mission of gaining the said practical knowledge.  In his letter of instruction, Poinsett wrote:

In the first place, it will be the duty of the board to acquire, as far as may be practicable, all practical knowledge which actual observation may afford upon the following objects, viz:

  1. The process of moulding and casting iron and brass cannon.

  2. The nature of the iron ores and pig metals used, and the treatment of the metal before and during the casting.

  3. The kinds of copper and tin used, and the proportions composing the metal for guns.

  4. The description of furnaces, and the kinds of fuel used in them.

  5. The modes and regulations for the inspection and proof of iron and brass cannon.

These broad objectives meant the board needed to gather information about the process of cannon production from the mines up to the foundry and out to the field.  Continuing with the instructions, Poinsett also authorized the purchase of samples:

The board will likewise obtain, by purchase, iron and brass guns, according to patterns which they are authorized to establish, in numbers sufficient to form a few field batteries; and they will give as much of their personal attention to their fabrication as time will allow, taking specimens of the metals in proof bars, of suitable dimensions for the necessary experiments and tests.

It is that paragraph which authorized the purchase of the cannon pictured above.

The commission consisted of Major Rufus Lathrop Baker, Captain Alfred Mordecai, Captain Benjamin Huger, and former ordnance officer, William Wade (who maintained partnership in a foundry in Pittsburgh, which later became Fort Pitt Foundry).   After spending the summer and much of the fall in Europe, the board returned to provide a very lengthy, detailed report. No doubt, that detail served to impress upon Poinsett that the desired “practical knowledge” was indeed obtained and retained.

In the report, the board provided a full accounting of all purchases.  Specific to the 6-pdr types, there were:

  • Two 6-pdr American pattern field guns, of iron, from Gospel Oak works, Birmingham, England.
  • Four 6-pdr American pattern field guns, of iron, from foundries in Sweden.
  • Two 6-pdr American pattern field guns, of iron, from the Liège, Belgium foundry.
  • Four 6-pdr American pattern field guns, of bronze, from the Liège, Belgium foundry.

Of that last quartet, two were cast in clay.  The other two cast in sand molds.  As you can see, the secretary’s intent was carried out.  There were sufficient 6-pdrs to outfit three batteries.  And that’s just the light field guns, not counting the heavier 12-pdr field guns and howitzers also purchased at the same time.

These weapons were, as alluded to in the letter, not intended for service use.  Rather these were earmarked for testing.  Most of that, tests to determine the weapon’s breaking point.  Destructive testing.

In a report from March 1844, on the extreme proof of a 6-pdr iron cannon cast at South Boston Foundry (Cyrus Alger & Company),  William Wade mentioned the foreign iron guns.  He compared the performance of the 1844 South Boston gun to tests of at least some of the foreign 6-pdr iron guns between 1841 and 1842 at Fort Monroe:

Of the six guns tried, three were cast in at different furnaces in Sweden, one in England, one in Belgium, and one in the United States.  Two of these burst with the charge of 3 pounds of powder and two balls; one at the 38th, and the other at the 39th fire of the series.  Three of them burst with the charge of 3 pounds and 3 balls; two at the 47th and one at the 49th fire.  The other, one of the Swedish guns, endured once the charge of 6 pounds and 7 balls, and burst at the second, being the 52d fire of the series.  The force of the charge last mentioned, under which the Swedish gun failed at the second fire, is computed to be less than that endured by all the [1844 guns]; the weakest of which, endured that force a greater number of times than the Swedish gun.

So that accounts for five of the eight foreign purchased iron guns.  It also indicates American cannon manufacture progressed smartly in just three short years. Some of that due to Wade’s “practical knowledge” and further experiments.

But what of the bronze guns?  I have not found any details of the tests.  But one of the other Belgian guns survives and is also on display at Chickamauga on the north end of the battlefield, at Douglas’ Texas Battery:

Vacation23 023

This one is marked as registry number 4.  That at the 8th Indiana Battery is registry number 1.  In my next post, I’ll provide a walk around of these two historic pieces.  For closing now, let us consider these as “artifacts” which speak to a time of reform within the US Army.  These were “samples” used to derive “practical knowledge” in the art of cannon production.

(Citations from Report of Select Committee, to Inquire Into the Propriety of Establishing a National Foundry for the Purpose of Fabricating Ordnance, Report No. 229, 27th Congress, 3rd Session, US House of Representatives, 1843, pages 242-6; “Report of the Manufacture and Proof of 6 Pdr Iron Cannon Cast at the South Boston Foundry: 1844,” by William Wade, from Reports of Experiments of the Strength and Other Properties of Metals for Cannon, US Ordnance Department, Philadelphia: Henry Carey Baird, 1856, pages 16-17.)

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 2nd New York Artillery Regiment

Sandwiched between the summaries for the 1st and 3rd New York Artillery Regiment is this lonely line:

0201_1_Snip_NY2nd

That line:

  • Battery L: At Haine’s (Hayne’s Bluff, Mississippi with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain Jacob Roemer commanded this battery, assigned to the Ninth Corps detachment sent to reinforce Grant at Vicksburg.

I discussed Battery L, 2nd New York’s complicated history in a post for the first quarter summary.  As mentioned, this battery was detached from the main portion of the regiment, which was then serving in the Washington Defenses.  Later it would be redesignated the 34th New York Independent Battery.

Captain Roemer’s battery started the quarter in Kentucky.  In June, they were ordered to Mississippi as part of a detachment of the Ninth Corps under Major-General John G. Parke, specifically Second Division (Brigadier-General Robert Potter) of that detachment.  This detachment was part of the force guarding the “backside” of the Vicksburg siege lines to prevent any Confederate attempt to interfere.  While there was little action on their front, the battery had a brief skirmish during passage downriver.  As related in Roemer’s Reminiscences of the War of the Rebellion: 1861-1865 (page 115):

Nothing of importance occurred until the steamer reached Lake Providence.  Here they were fighting on the land, and we could hear the musketry.  Our flotilla consisted of eleven transports led by two gunboats.  The Mariner was the rear boat of the flotilla, and two of the Battery’s guns were in position in the bow of the boat ready for action….

Just as the boat neared the bank and swung away from it to the left, several companies of Confederates rushed out of the canebrake, and let us have the contents of their muskets.  When they had fired three volleys, I made up my mind that some of us might suffer.  My first thought was for my son.  I made him lie down and then covered him with mattresses. I then went to the guns in the bow, had them loaded with canister, and fired.  That the guns were so well aimed, was proved by the fact that we could see the “Johnnies” hop.  The latter started to run and we sent some shrapnel after them.  It was all over in a few minutes, but the “Johnnies” got the worst of it, for we suffered no casualties.

Roemer went on to say his fires played out just as a counterattack occurred on land.  While this seems to match into the narrative for the Battle of Lake Providence, fought on June 9, 1863, there are several discrepancies with Roemer’s dates.  At any rate, the battery off-loaded at Hayne’s Bluff on June 18.  From that point, the battery setup in positions looking east and anticipated Confederate approaches to relieve Vicksburg.

Meanwhile, the main portion of the 2nd New York (Heavy) Artillery was assigned to the Washington Defenses south of the Potomac.  Colonel Joseph N. G. Whistler took command of the regiment on May 6, 1863, and held that position for the remainder of the war.   A year later the 2nd New York Heavy was assigned to Second Corps, Army of the Potomac as “foot artillery.”  As the Overland Campaign progressed, they, along with other “Heavies” were pressed into service as infantry.

Turning back to Battery L, we have a healthy, but varied, quantity of ammunition on hand:

0203_2_Snip_NY2nd

Battery L reported 30 percussion shell, 336 fuse shell, and 224 bullet shell, of Hotchkiss patent, for 3-inch rifles.

0204_1_Snip_NY2nd

The battery also had 83 canister on hand, but of Dyer’s patent, for 3-inch rifles.

0204_2_Snip_NY2nd

Adding to the variety were 30 shells for 3-inch rifles of the Schenkl patent.

Turning to the small arms:

0204_3_Snip_NY2nd

In the previous quarter, the battery reported fifteen Navy revolvers and fifteen horse artillery sabers.  By the end of June, they had twelve Army revolvers and fourteen horse artillery sabers.  Sounds like the supply sergeant did some dealing.

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

Moving in order through the second quarter summaries, New York is the next state to consider.  And Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment is the first of those entries.

0201_1_Snip_NY1st

We find returns registered for nine of the twelve batteries of the regiment.  And of those nine, three were not received until 1864.  That’s what happens to paperwork due in the middle of the campaign season!

  • Battery A: At Pottsville, Pennsylvania, on the March 1864 receipt date, with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery A, under Captain Thomas H. Bates, was at Camp Barry, remained at the Camp of Instruction, Camp Barry, in Washington, D.C. through the summer months. The battery, recently reformed after losing all guns during the Peninsula Campaign, was training new crews.
  • Battery B: At Warrenton Junction, Virginia, reflecting the October 1863 receipt date, with four 10-pdr Parrotts. The battery was assigned to Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Captain Rufus D. Pettit, in command of the battery at the start of the quarter resigned at the end of May.  Captain James M. Rorty then took command.  Rorty was mortally wounded on the afternoon of July 3 at Gettysburg.  The next in command, Lieutenant Albert S. Sheldon, was wounded a little later.  Lieutenant Robert E. Rogers then became the third officer to command the battery that day.
  • Battery C: Listed at Rappahannock, Virginia, also reflecting the fall reporting date, four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was assigned to support Fifth Corps, and thus on the march toward Gettysburg at the end of the reporting period.  Captain Almont Barnes remained in command.
  • Battery D: Bealton, Virgina!  Again, under the fall reporting date.  This battery had  six 12-pdr Napoleons.  This battery supported Third Corps as part of the Gettysburg Campaign.  Lieutenant George B. Winslow remained in command.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign.  At the start of the quarter, the men of Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery, in Sixth Corps.  In mid-June, the men transferred to support Battery L, 1st New York (below).
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery remained part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.  Later in July, the battery moved to Camp Barry in Washington.
  • Battery G: Accurately reported at Taneytown, Maryland, with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The battery moved from Second Corps to the 4th Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve in June.  Captain Nelson Ames remained in command.
  • Battery H: Reporting at Camp Barry with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, in October 1863.  However, as the end of June, the battery, under Captain Charles E. Mink, was assigned to Fourth Corps and stationed at Yorktown.  The battery was involved with Dix’s Peninsula Campaign.
  • Battery I: No report. Captain Michael Wiedrich commanded this battery, assigned to Eleventh Corps.  The battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at Gettysburg.  And its employment on the field on July 1 might explain the lack of report.
  • Battery K: Reporting at Brandy Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  For the third straight quarter, this battery’s location reflects a  January, 1864, report. In June 1863, Battery K was assigned to the 4th Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, under Captain Robert H. Fitzhugh.  The 11th New York Independent Battery was attached to Battery K at this time, adding two guns (up from four the previous quarter).
  • Battery L: Another “late” return, posted in February 1864, has this battery at Rappahannock Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was on the field at Gettysburg supporting First Corps, on the first day of July.  Captain Gilbert H. Reynolds took command in March.
  • Battery M: No return. Battery M, under Lieutenant Charles Winegar, served in Twelfth Corps.  The battery had four 10-pdr Parrott rifles at Gettysburg, with one section on Power’s Hill and another on McAllister’s Farm.

Thus nine of the twelve batteries were directly involved with the Gettysburg Campaign.  We might say the other three were indirectly involved to some degree.  Many stories I could relate and wealth of quotes related to those hot summer days of 1863.  But for brevity, let us focus on the data of the summary.

Moving on to the ammunition, we have three batteries with 12-pdr Napoleons:

0203_1_Snip_NY1st

And three lines to consider:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 64 shell, 192 case, and 72 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery D: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery G: 308 shot for 6-pdr field guns; 120 shell, 116 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

I would guess the tally of 6-pdr shot for Battery G was a transcription error, and rightly should be 12-pdr.

We have 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  So that means we should have Hotchkiss projectiles:

0203_2_Snip_NY1st

Five lines to consider:

  • Battery C: 92 canister, 40 percussion shell, 136 fuse shell, and 424 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery F: 80 canister, 80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 480 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery H: 21 canister and 34 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery K: 120 canister, 363 fuse shell, and 350 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 120 canister, 39 percussion shell, and 600 (?) bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

A couple more lines to consider on the next page:

0204_1_Snip_NY1st

Dyer’s Patent:

  • Battery H: 128 shell, 530 shrapnel, and 160 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Parrott’s Patent:

  • Battery B: 320 shell, 520 case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

The last page indicates some Schenkl projectiles on hand:

0204_2_Snip_NY1st

Four batteries with Schenkl:

  • Battery B: 80 shells for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery H: 3 shells for 3-inch rifles..
  • Battery K: 356 shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 441 shells for 3-inch rifles.

Again, we see a mix and match of projectiles, by patent, in the ammunition chests.

Lastly we turn to the small arms:

0204_3_Snip_NY1st

By battery:

  • Battery A: Seventeen Navy revolvers.
  • Battery B: Twelve Navy revolvers and three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers, and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery G: Nineteen Army revolver and thirty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Nine Navy revolvers and thirty cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Navy revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

A very fair assortment, with reasonable numbers, of small arms for the 1st New York.  These were field artillerymen, first and foremost.

Comparison: US and Foreign 6-pdr Guns

Those of us with Cold War experience may fondly recall the old ASCC reporting names for aircraft and missiles.  For those who were not gifted with such experiences, in short the NATO countries, along with allied nations around the world, standardized an artificial set of names for Soviet hardware.  Those artificial names served as a framework when discussing the perceived capabilities of the aircraft or missiles.  But not knowing with precision exactly what the Soviets called their weapons lead to a lot of misidentification and incorrect perceptions.  For the historian dealing with such things, we have to work from a perspective of “what did they know at that time?”… furthermore we must ensure that knowledge, or lack thereof, is used as the context when interpreting the sources.

In the 19th century, armies “looked over the shoulder” of their potential adversaries – and allies – just the same as today.  While perhaps not cloaked an air of “James Bond” and all, there was indeed some technical intelligence gathering going on.  With respect to field artillery, we find that manifested in a section within the US Army’s Ordnance Manuals with a title something like “Cannon of Foreign Countries.”

From the 1841 edition:

The materials for the following table have been collected, with few exceptions, from the latest manuals of artillery in England, France, Prussia, and Austria, and from memoranda obtained in Russia and Sweden.

The dimensions and weights are given in our own measures.

The column of exterior length shows the length from the rear of the base ring to the face of the piece, and the length of bore includes the chamber, when not otherwise mentioned.

In England, France, and Sweden, howitzers and mortars take their denominations, as with us, from the diameter of the bore, or from the caliber of a gun of corresponding bore; in Austria and Prussia, from the weight of a stone ball of the caliber of the bore; in Russia, from the true weight of the shell.

This introduction identifies the sources used, to which I would add some data was undoubtedly derived from examination of cannon – particular those captured from the British during the Revolution or War of 1812.  And that point is one good reason to have data on the cannon of other countries – should the situation arise that American officers need to use captured or otherwise acquired weapons.

The introduction also lets us know the data was converted to American standards.  Though at the same time we see just settling on “the name of a thing” was as difficult then as it is today.

In the past, I’ve used the tables to compare foreign and American 24-pdr howitzers.  There we were focused more on weapons imported during the Civil War.  If we switch over to the 6-pdrs, there were certainly some imports to consider.  But also we might use those tables to compare US weapon development to that of Europe.  Much of the American’s research, development, and test programs focused on the 6-pdr caliber between 1815 and 1855.  And some of the data, which made its way onto those Ordnance Manual tables, was used to assess American work.  That in mind, let us consider the data:

6pdrForeignComp

Please note the color coding here.  Green lines are field guns (many, even heavy types, specifically labeled field gun in the tables).  Rose colored lines are siege, garrison, seacoast, or naval guns.  And that one yellow line is for a mountain gun, included simply because the caliber rating in the manual. Entries from England, France (only the earliest manuals), Spain, Belgium, Austria, Prussia, Saxony, Russia, and Sweden.  To that I added listings for US models from 1919 up to the Civil War.  And for good measure, the experimental Griffen wrought iron gun.

As alluded to in the manual’s introduction, the table included bore diameter, exterior length (minus the knob), bore length, and weight.  There were also columns that rated the windage allowed.  While that was an important factor with field artillery, a lot of variables played in there. Worth discussion at a later time perhaps.

The columns for focus in our discussion today are those detailing the length and weight.  And to narrow that focus more, I’ve added a column to show the ratio between the length of bore (in inches) to the weight of the gun (in pounds).  In other words, how much metal was allocated against the length of travel down the bore?

Why that?  Well, length of bore factors into the interior ballistics of the weapon.  And interior ballistics in turn begets exterior ballistic performance.  Guns have longer bores than howitzers, of course.  But beyond that, when comparing a gun of shorter bore to one with longer bore, there are performance differences to keep in mind. And there are limitations that govern the practical length of the bore.  One of those is the weight of the weapon.  In a simple equation, one would desire the longest bore possible within a given weight.  But… we are reminded the thinner the metal, the more susceptible the gun to bursting or other metal performance problems.  All this said… and again, running the risk of over simplification for sake of brevity… the optimum 6-pdr gun would be one with the longest bore, yet with just enough metal thickness (around the breech, mostly) to ensure good performance and reliability.  But not one pound of metal more!  (lest we start discussing the ratio of horse power to pound of gun…)

But not all metals are the same, you say!  Correct.  In the scope of mid-19th century conversations, there was cast iron and bronze (steel, wrought iron, and other options, we’ve discussed before… were more novelties at that time).  Furthermore, prior to the 1840s, copper, the necessary base for bronze, was mined in only small quantities (Vermont was the leading producer, BTW).  But the early United States had plenty of iron!  Later, after the big Michigan copper rush, the War Department realized the US was gifted with plenty of both metals.

All that background in mind, what do we see with the ratio of bore length to weight?  Well, the Model 1819 “Walking Stick” cannon, of cast iron, had a lower ratio than many European bronze weapons.  In fact, it was almost as low, in ratio, to the British light bronze 6-pdr (which the Americans were very familiar with).   A longer bore, and with a much denser metal, yet the Americans left it relatively thin around the breech.  Only 75 pounds heavier and with about five inches more bore.  Would have been interesting to see range trials between those weapons.

On the other end of the time line, the last mass produced American 6-pdr, the Model 1841, was much heavier, by ratio, than the Model 1819 iron gun.  Nearly four pounds per inch of bore heavier!  This made the Model 1841 heavier, again by ratio, than the Napoleonoic era British and French guns.  (And that is a fine point that I lack space to fully develop here – the French and British move to 12-pdr guns as the century progressed.. topic for another day.)  Yet, the Model 1841 does not stand out as overly heavy compared to the other European powers. Particularly when considering the Belgian guns.

The thumb I’d put on the scales here is with respect to the model numbers.  We have documented efforts by the Americans to develop an acceptable (Secretary of War Joel R. Poinsett might say “perfect” in the sense of perfection being the enemy of good in this case) field gun.  Acceptable in 1819 was a cast iron gun of relatively light weight.  By 1841, even a bronze gun needed more mass of metal – more than a third more, by ratio of bore to overall weight.

Why?  One word – gunpowder.  Despite having few wars during that first half of the Pax Britannica period, the technology of warfare did not sit still.  By 1861, there was nearly a half century of innovation and refinement to apply towards the grim task of warfighting.